New Research Paper Discusses Women’s Political Participation in Afghanistan

New Research Paper Discusses Women’s Political Participation in Afghanistan

Kabul, 6 October 2020: The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) supported by UN Women Afghanistan, launched a research paper titled: “Solidarity, Strength and Substance: Women’s Political Participation in Afghanistan” in a virtual event on 5 October 2020. The paper explores how Afghan women strategise around institutional barriers and identifies which tools are most effective in promoting women’s participation and substantive influence.  This is the second research paper of a series of 4 on key topics concerning women’s rights and gender in Afghanistan part of the AREU and UN Women Afghanistan partnership.

The launch event engaged representatives of the Government of Afghanistan, the United Nations, human rights and women’s rights movements and activists in a dialogue exploring the key findings of the research paper, addressing the main achievements on Afghan women political participation throughout history and exploring how to advance Afghan women’s engagement in all forums concerning the future of their country.

Her Excellency Rula Ghani the First Lady of Afghanistan in her remark said: “Already, from August 2018 to February 2019, a systematic series of consultations with 15,000 women in all 34 provinces had taken place under the banner of the Afghan Women Consensus on Peace ( Ejma-e-Milli) and resulted in a 15-article national declaration.” She added that at the National Jirga for Peace of April 2019, women were part of the leadership: two women were deputy head of the Jirga, 2 were secretaries and the one spokesperson was a woman. “Similarly, women headed 13 of the 50 committees and 21 were appointed rapporteurs of their committee,” she added.

While the First Lady highlighted the very narrow scope of the study in terms of overall discussion of women’s political participation in the recent couple of years, she stated that the paper has not touched the significant impact that some of the initiatives such as the National Solidarity Program (NSP) or the Citizen Charter - both nationwide programs, working at the village and district levels, have by systematically opening the doors to women’s participation within their communities and have granted them positions of leadership. “In the Citizen Charter, each village Shura is headed by a man and a woman and both of them need to be present and give their signature when withdrawing funds from a Bank,” she added.

“The paper being launched today explores the ways in which Afghan women have fought to have their voice heard”, said Ms. Alison Davidian, UN Women Deputy-Representative in Afghanistan. “It looks at how to ensure women’s leadership that becomes the status-quo rather than an exceptional story. This is a key conversation we need to have as Afghanistan moves towards peace.”

Ms. Fatima Gailani, a member of Doha Peace Negotiation team, who also took part in the opening remarks said: “Without political participation we cannot change anything for women and if you cannot make decision, then how you can make a change.”

She further added: “Solidarity has always been important for Afghan women, but today it is vital and without it we can’t go even a step forward.”

Dr Orzala Nemat AREU Director said:” Today is remarkable occasion to have this strong reminder to all sides involved in armed conflict in Afghanistan that the Afghan women are tired of on-going violence, talks and discussions are the only way ahead to end this war.”

“We appreciate the ongoing peace talk efforts and reiterate the call from Afghan people for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. This study highlights the importance of women’s role in the overall political decision-making and hence we are delighted to have such discussion,” she added.

This research-based paper analyses three formal mechanisms used for promoting women’s involvement in the public domain such as elections, affirmative action in the public sector and education. In the past one decade, all these have enticed substantial attention of the government and international community.

The research findings indicate that formal mechanisms are limited as a means to promote women’s influence without supporting informal strategies, including building professional relationships and networks of trust, surrounding oneself with supportive men and women at home and work and negotiating in a way that strengthens relationships between men and women. The paper suggests that all of these will help with enhancing the transformative power of the formal institutions of suffrage affirmative action and education.

The paper argues that in Afghanistan men make decisions, women are usually absent from the key decision-making processes. This commonly felt public-sphere narrative is reflected in stories that women tell of being executed from policy meetings, overlooked for promotion, harassed at work, told whom to vote for, and side-lined from the gatherings at home where critical family issues are discussed.

The paper also discusses how Afghan women strategise around institutional barriers and with ascertaining certain effective tools to promote women’s political participation and substantive influence, with special focus on policy and service provision in the public domain. The paper is based on over 80 interviews and focus group discussions in four Afghan provinces.

Click here to see the full report.

View Virtual event on our YouTube channel.

For further information, please contact:

Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU):

Mobile: 0799608548


UN Women Afghanistan:

Mobile:  +93 (0) 728419934